Cervical Radiculopathy

What is it?

Cervical radiculopathy is when one or more nerves in the neck are disturbed or damaged. This disturbance causes pain and sometimes pins and needles.

Cervical Radiculopathy

What causes it?

Cervical radiculopathy is often caused by irritation and inflammation of the nerve when there is pressure on it.

The pressure is usually caused by either a disc herniating or bone spur from the neck.

Disc herniations can be caused by prolonged positioning of your neck, examples include; looking down at your phone for a long time, working while looking up or down for hours or carrying heavy objects on your shoulders.


  • Neck or upper back pain
  • Pain radiating one or both arms
  • Numbness or pins and needles in neck, shoulders, arms, hands or fingers
  • Weakness in neck, shoulders, arms, hands or finger

How is it diagnosed?

  • You will be asked about your symptoms and how they started. Other questions will include those to eliminate other injury/disease.
  • While sitting/lying, the movement in your neck and strength of your muscles will be tested to see how your symptoms affect you. Four simple movement tests will diagnose cervical radiculopathy.

These steps are the most accurate method of diagnosis.

Scans such as CTs, X-rays, MRI scan or EMGs may diagnose cervical radiculopathy.

Common types

There are several types of cervical radiculopathy depending on the nerve affected:

  • C5 radiculopathy usually causes pain and weakness in the upper arms and shoulders. A person may experience discomfort in the shoulder blades area with rarely any tingling or numbness.
  • C6 radiculopathy (common) causes numbness and pain in the arm.
  • C7 radiculopathy (most common) causes numbness and neck pain that radiates to the arm and hand.
  • C8 radiculopathy causes similar symptoms to C7 radiculopathy. However, a person can also experience weakness when gripping


The two standard treatments for cervical radiculopathy are physiotherapy treatment and surgery.

  • Physiotherapy treatment will involve manual therapy, exercise and education to increase function, neck movement and decrease pain and disability.
  • Surgery is an option for some people only and does not always completely remove the symptoms.
Cervical Radiculopathy

Tips and tricks for managing daily activities

  • Modify your workplace so you always have a good posture.
  • Avoid long sitting periods (at work, watching TV, using the computer) by taking regular breaks.
  • Regularly stretch your neck, shoulder and arm during breaks.


To prevent cervical radiculopathy, you should:

  • Maintain a proper neck posture
  • Be physically active
  • Maintain a healthy weight

How long until I get better?

Improvements in symptoms are expected after 6 to 12 weeks of treatment with physiotherapy and pain relief medication.

Take Home Message

  • Cervical radiculopathy is when the nerve in the neck becomes disturbed by pressure put on it.
  • Good neck posture and regular stretches can improve cervical radiculopathy symptoms.
  • It is a common condition occurring in young and old people.
  • Surgery is NOT the always the best solution.